A Canadian woman who made waves three years ago with her criticism of her native country’s health care system is back at it, this time on behalf of an anti-Obama campaign run by a pair of billionaire oil barons.
Shona Holmes became something of a household name in 2009 with her story of seeking treatment for a brain condition in the U.S. after she faced long wait times for surgery in Canada.
Now she is campaigning blocks away from where President Barack Obama is to appear at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., urging voters to toss Obama from office and overturn Obamacare, reports Bloomberg Businessweek.
Holmes' new campaign is funded by the Koch Brothers, the billionaire owners of Koch Industries who are the principal sponsors of the lobby group Americans for Prosperity (AfP). The group has launched a $27-million effort to oust Obama, including an ad featuring Holmes describing her experience. CNN reports that more than $6 million of that fund will go to airing this ad.
In the ad, Holmes quotes a doctor who reportedly told her she would be dead if she waited for her appointment in Canada.
"I knew then that the system had become far more dangerous for patients than I had ever realized,” she says.
“Under President Obama, America’s health care is becoming more like the Canadian system, that failed Shona,” the ad says in large lettering towards the end.
CBS News refers to that assertion as “false.”
The ad pushes the false assertion that the U.S. health care law is government-run like Canada's. In fact, the U.S. law is insurance-based and runs through the private market, while Canada's is a public system largely run and administered by the government.
When Holmes took a similar message to the U.S. in 2009, during the debate over Obamacare, she found herself in the centre of a political firestorm on both sides of the border. Critics attacked her for overstating her medical condition, with Ian Welsh writing in the Huffington Post that her condition — a Rathke’s cleft cyst — was hardly the life-endangering “brain tumour” her supporters had claimed. She had the cyst removed at the Mayo Clinic in 2005.
Many in Canada saw her as a “sellout” who “betrayed” Canada for political gain in the U.S. (a sign of just how deeply the country’s universal health care system has become ingrained as a part of Canadian identity).
Holmes complained at the time of receiving death threats from Canadians.
"It's just absolutely asinine that somebody could speak out about their beliefs and be lynched," Holmes said in 2009, as quoted in the Globe and Mail.
In the U.S., Holmes became “the darling of conservatives and the stop-public-health-care movement in the United States,” the Ottawa Citizen reported. “She's testified before Congress, been on Fox TV as well as CNN, and her story is retold on hundreds of right wing blogs.”
Though the AfP ad draws a parallel between Canadian health care and Obamacare, there are many significant differences between the two schemes. The Canadian system — composed of a patchwork of province-run health insurance plans — provides universal coverage, while the Obama plan does not. And while Obamacare relies on private health insurers to cover those who would otherwise not be able to afford it, Canada’s system features government-run health insurers that do not have a mandate to turn a profit.
Despite the differences in costs, the countries have remarkably similar health care outcomes. In a recent comparison of disease survival rates, Canada was found to lead the U.S. in 11 different medical conditions, including leukemia and kidney and liver transplants, while the U.S. outperformed Canada on six others, including breast and cervical cancer.
Hey, Canadian readers: Tell Americans what they should know about health care in the Great White North. Leave your ideas in the comments section and we’ll publish a selection of your best responses later this week.